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I know that Merlin's beard! is an exclamation from Harry Potter which is similar to "Oh Lord!". and it is a common wizarding expression used to show surprise. Can we use it this expression in the muggle world?

I just wanted to know whether it is a proper exclamation which has its own origin and what is the literal meaning of this?

Are there any other exclamations like this?

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3 Answers

That is probably a reference to the archaic exclamation "By Odin's Beard!", which was (supposedly) originally a formal oath, but came to be just a profane (and later a substitue profane) oath. Something you might reflexively shout after hitting your thumb with a hammer.

An author at Urban Dictionary claims it was actually an oath to not shave until something is accomplished, but I'm not sure I buy that.

Rowling seems to be fond of building her own semi-parallel universe for Wizards in the HP books. This is sort of her way of saying that the "Wizarding world" views Merlin in the same mythic way that normal Anglo-Saxon folk might view Odin.

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Can you reference the archaic version? I am only getting a Thor quote (from Marvel comics as opposed to Valhalla.) –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 9 '11 at 14:14
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It's possible "By Odin's Beard!" was never actually an archaic oath in the first place. It came to mind for me too when I read the question, so I dug around a bit. It seems at least possible it was entirely made up by Marvel Comics to avoid offending any Christians in their target readership. This page discusses the phenomenon in a bit more depth, and seems quite cogent to me. –  FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 14:26
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"By Lucifer's Beard!" -Sideshow Bob, The Simpson's –  MVCylon Sep 9 '11 at 17:49
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This expression is completely fictional. In the Harry Potter books, there are other 'wizarding idioms' that sometimes paraphrase ones existing in the real world. A (presumably, incomplete) list can be found here.

It is perfectly acceptable to use them in the Harry Potter fandom. Certain expressions from the books are well-known to this community, and you won't raise any eyebrows by saying "Would you care for a lemon drop?", "Expelliarmus!" or "Constant vigilance!" even in a seemingly unrelated situation.

You can easily remember similar expressions from other books or movies: "May the Force be with you!" from the Star Wars, "I'll be back" from the Terminator. Still, you cannot assume that every speaker of English knows each one of these (keeping in mind the amount of available books, movies, cartoons and comics).

So, my conclusion is that "Merlin's beard" can certainly be used as a personal catch phrase in the Muggle world. Just don't expect everyone to recognise it.

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Or, to those of us not located in the US, “Would you care for a sherbet lemon?”. ;-) –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 21 '13 at 16:41
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It's unique to Harry Potter, similar to Robin saying, "Holy [relevant object], Batman!" It's meant to show Merlin as sort of wizard replacement, in colloquialisms, for St. Pete, Jesus, or similar -- just a small thing to augment the presentation of the wizarding culture, which Rowling does in so many places throughout the series. After all, the isolated wizard community would likely have different colloquialisms, different references/allusions to make, and different ways to express irreverence than we muggles have.

I don't think it would hurt for a muggle to use the phrase, though. :]

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I'm fairly certain Thor referenced Odin, not Merlin. –  Rae Sep 9 '11 at 14:37
    
Oops! You're right! Anyway, JKR was almost certainly doing it for the same reason Marvel did with "Odin's beard", but I've deleted my comment anyway. –  FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 14:59
    
I would suggest that it was more than a replacement for a profane oath, though. Rowling habitually includes details that show variations between the wizarding world and the muggle world in a tongue-in-cheek manner; I would argue that this is another deliberate detail of that nature, rather than an effort to avoid offense. –  Rae Sep 9 '11 at 15:22
    
Yes of course JKR wants to highlight the differences. But I think she's careful not to introduce references to any "active" faiths (particularly Christianity). I haven't read much HP, but frankly I'd be surprised if she ever mentions Muggles going to church, for example. If she were American, there might well be some use of crucifixes in the wizard world - but she's not, so I doubt there are. Crucifixes may have snuck in on the movies though - I don't know. –  FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 15:33
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